Explore La Crema’s Appellation Series

Discover the La Crema you might not know: Our limited-quantity series of artisan Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that capture the essence of the America’s finest grape-growing regions.

For certain winemakers, nothing is more fun, or makes better use of their art and skills, than crafting wines that express the particular place of origin of the grapes—their terroir, to use that hard-to-define French term.

La Crema’s winemaker, Elizabeth Grant-Douglas, is such a winemaker. Speaking of the pleasures of crafting a wine of terroir, she says, “With some of our Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from our vineyards, you start to think, ‘This piece of land is unique. It has something to say.’”

With vineyards in some of the finest cool-climate appellations, ranging from Willamette Valley in Oregon through the Anderson Valley, Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Carneros, Bennett Valley and Arroyo Seco, Grant-Douglas loves letting the individual wines express themselves and their terroir.

“I started winemaking here in 2001, and we’ve since increased the number of site-specific Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays we make a great deal,” she notes. “We explore all of these appellations. And remember, we might have 80 different components, or lots, from a larger appellation. Sometimes, you get something so compelling it calls to be bottled on it’s own.”This is the philosophy behind the increasing number of La Crema’s Appellation series Pinots and Chards: “These new appellation wines are complete in themselves..”

In order to best allow the wines to express their individual terroir, rather than winemaking style, Grant-Douglas makes all her appellation series using the same techniques, with a single exception: the Anderson Valley Chardonnay, alone among all the Pinots and Chards, sees no new oak. This is because, as Grant-Douglas notes, the wine is so “bright, pretty and delicate, it just doesn’t need any.”

All grape varieties reflect their terroir, but some do so more than others. Concerning Pinot Noir, Grant-Douglas says, “It’s particularly site-specific. Everything that happens to Pinot shows: the shifts in temperature, the wind, the soils, the angle of the slope. It all makes and especially strong impression on Pinot Noir.”

Here are Grant-Douglas’s quick takes on five of her appellation wines and their particular qualities:

Anderson Valley:

“The Pinot is floral, with blue fruit, violets and black tea. The Chardonnay is so bright, pretty and delicate.”

– Shop for our Anderson Valley wines: Chardonnay | Pinot Noir

Morning sun basks our Anderson Valley vineyards

Anderson Valley, conveyed by the Navarro River, dense fog from the Mendocino Coast is funneled into the vineyards, offering an extreme contrast between strong sun and the frigid coastal air, promoting small berries with firm acidity and marked delicacy.

Arroyo Seco:

“The Chardonnay has pretty tropical notes, backed up by a mineral quality. The Pinot has a really intense plummy quality.”

– Shop for our Arroyo Seco wines: Chardonnay | Pinot Noir

The Monterey appellation begins just north of the Monterey Bay and extends south to Paso Robles.

With one of the longest cool-climate seasons in the United States, abundant sun and scarce rainfall combine with strong winds, lowering yields and providing extended hang time on the vine, providing the desirable combination of vivid natural acidity and full maturity in the fruit.


“The Chard benefits from a warmer influence. I get pear and yellow plum. The Pinot Noir is incredibly earth-driven, with a wild, feral quality.”

– Shop for our Carneros wines: Chardonnay | Pinot Noir

Windswept Los Carnero Vineyards

The vineyards of Los Carneros are subjected relentless afternoon breezes that charge up the rolling hillsides from the San Pablo Bay, cooling the vines and slowing the ripening process to preserve natural acidity and fruit vibrancy (the winds are sometimes referred to as the “Carneros Express.”)

Russian River Valley:

“Chardonnays are a richer style, with balancing acidity. Pinot Noir is lush and spicy, with cherry, cola and sassafras.”

– Shop for our Russian River wines: Chardonnay | Pinot Noir

Russian River vineyards emerge from a blanket of fog.

The appellation is unique in that its boundaries were created based on fog intrusion. Daily temperature fluctuation in these vineyards can be as much as 40°F mid-summer.

Willamette Valley:

“I love it! Chardonnay has a bright, laser focus of citrus and green apples. And Pinot Noir has intense, juicy red fruit.”

– Shop for our Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Relative to California. The Willamette Valley has a short growing season.

Relative to California. The Willamette Valley has a short growing season.

Beyond the appellation series Pinots and Chardonnays, Grant-Douglas does craft the occasional vineyard-designated wine (where all of the grapes are sourced from a single vineyard), “but only when they’re special in that vintage,” she says. “It’s a call we make every year.” Since the 2014s are still maturing, Grant-Douglas won’t know if she’ll bottle single-vineyard wines until next Spring.

The one exception is the single vineyard Pinot Noir created through or Virtual Vintner crowd-sourcing experience. Interested in learning more? Get the whole story here.

“There are things I might miss out on until the wine has time to evolve, especially with Pinot Noir. It can be really mute at this time of the year.”

Should she create single-vineyard wines from the 2014 vintage, they’ll be highlighted here on the blog.